Attorney General Ellison announces new Wage Theft Unit in AGO
Will investigate and litigate complaints of wage theft and other workplace fraud and abuse perpetrated against Minnesotans of all backgrounds, especially the most vulnerable
July 15, 2019 (SAINT PAUL) – On the day that Governor Tim Walz ceremonially signed Minnesota’s new law to fight wage theft — the strongest law of its kind in the country — Minnesota Attorney General Ellison announced that his office has formed a new Wage Theft Unit dedicated to investigating and enforcing cases of wage theft.
“The promise of America is that if you work hard and play by the rules, you’ll get ahead. But you can’t get ahead if your boss is stealing your hard-earned wages,” Attorney General Ellison said. “Wage theft is theft, pure and simple — but even though we prosecute folks who steal from people, it’s been hard to hold bad employers accountable for stealing wages from their workers.
“Because you should get every dollar you earned for every hour you worked, I’ve started a new Wage Theft Unit in the Attorney General’s Office. Its sole purpose is to use all of our powers to investigate wage theft and enforce the new law. It’s for Minnesotans from any job or industry and from any background or immigration status — no exceptions — who are having their wages stolen or are experiencing other kinds fraud or abuse. It’s also for any employer who is playing by the rules but is being hurt by having to compete against a business that is stealing wages and breaking the law,” Ellison continued.
Wage theft can take many forms: having hours shaved off your paycheck; being forced to work off the clock; not getting paid for overtime; being paid at a lower rate than promised, sometimes even below minimum wage; being paid in cash or other forms like gift cards, with no Social Security, unemployment, or worker’s comp withheld; being misclassified as an independent contractor; and more.
The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office Wage Theft Unit will protect and advance the economic rights of all Minnesota residents, especially those from communities and backgrounds that are most vulnerable to theft and abuse, who have traditionally lacked access to the courts and attorneys. The Unit will investigate and litigate cases involving patterns and practices affecting economic rights and other persistent issues that cause Minnesotan workers not to receive the wages they are entitled to. The Unit will also monitor emerging labor and employment issues and dialogue with other government entities, community groups, and the business community to increase awareness of economic rights issues and to identify bad actors violating those rights.
Staffing the Wage Theft Unit are Jonathan Moler and Ana Vergara.
Jonathan Moler is an Assistant Attorney General whose practice focuses on economic- and social-justice work. In the Attorney General’s Office, he has previously represented the Department of Labor and Industry and the Department of Human Rights in their work to make workplaces fairer, safer, and free from discrimination. Prior to joining the Attorney General’s Office, Jonathan advocated for workers’ rights as an attorney at Nichols Kaster, PLLP. As part of the Office’s Wage Theft Unit, Jonathan will develop and litigate cases to protect Minnesotan workers’ economic rights and will work to strengthen the Office’s bonds with governmental and community partners who share those goals.
Ana Vergara joins the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office as a Wage Theft Investigator. Most recently, Ana worked at the Amnesty International headquarters in Washington, D.C. as a refugee campaigner: her campaign work focused on asylum seekers at the southern border and family separation. The Humphrey School of Public Affairs, where she earned a master’s degree, awarded Ana the 2019 Paul and Sheila Wellstone Award for Public Action for embodying the spirit, passion, and dedication of the late U.S. senator and his wife. Ana will continue her public service as the Congressional District 2 representative for the Minnesota Council of Latino Affairs.
Any Minnesotan who has had wages stolen by an employer or is experiencing other kinds of fraud or abuse in the workplace should contact the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office at (651) 296-3353 (metro) or (800) 657-3787 (Greater Minnesota) or write the Office at:
Office of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison
445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1400
St. Paul, MN 55101.